New research from Which? Travel has found that Ryanair is the worst of the UK's big four airlines for processing refunds for cancelled flights, with 84% of Ryanair customers surveyed telling Which? they have not received their money back.
After revealing last month that 10 of the UK's largest airlines were breaking the law over refunds, Which? subsequently surveyed nearly 2,800 airline customers who had flights cancelled since mid-March, to find out about their experience with their airline.
EU and UK airlines, like Ryanair, are legally required to issue refunds within seven days of a cancellation, but just 5% of the Ryanair customers we surveyed reported receiving their money in this time.
In contrast, 39% of British Airways customers and 29% of Jet2 customers surveyed had received a refund within seven days.
Ryanair has made it difficult for customers to claim refunds by introducing several hurdles. Initially it directed customers to online refund forms that didn't work. Then it emailed vouchers to the customers that had requested cash refunds. Many Ryanair passengers have now been waiting months for their money back.
It has repeatedly changed the time frame for refunds, at one point telling customers they would need to wait until the coronavirus crisis was over.
Customers have been sympathetic to airlines taking longer to issue refunds because of the coronavirus crisis. Ryanair, like other carriers, blamed the delays on the millions of refunds it has needed to process and the difficulties in doing so while staff work remotely.
However, other airlines facing the same difficulties have done a far better job on refunds.
84% of Ryanair customers surveyed said they were still waiting for a refund, versus 63% of easyJet customers and just 23% and 19% of British Airways and Jet2 customers respectively.
Which? asked Ryanair to comment on these findings but it did not respond.
Customers of easyJet in our survey have also found it difficult to get their money back. Just 14% received a refund within seven days.
The airline initially forced customers to apply for a cash refund by calling its customer service line, although many reported that it was impossible to get through. It subsequently added an online form where customers could apply.
easyJet told Which?: 'Customers on cancelled flights can transfer to an alternative flight free of charge or receive a voucher for the value of their booking online. Customers may also request a refund by submitting a claim in writing via a dedicated refund webform, online. We are processing refunds for customers and aim to so in less than 28 days.'
Which? has repeatedly called on the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to take action against airlines that are not providing refunds, or are significantly delaying paying out.
British Airways angered its customers by forcing them to phone customer services to claim a refund. The airline refused to provide an online form. This left many facing long waits on hold, with some customers finding it impossible to get through and lodge a claim.
However, while British Airways is not meeting the law on refunds, it is doing a better job than most of its rivals. Our survey found less than one in four BA customers were still awaiting a refund.
British Airways told Which?: 'If a customer's flight has been cancelled, they should call us to discuss their options. They can rebook, refund or choose to take a voucher to fly at a later date. Refunds can be requested at any point up to 12 months after the start date of the journey.'
Holiday airline Jet2 has also done a far better job than easyJet or Ryanair in refunding its customers. Less than a fifth of those people we surveyed had not received a refund from the carrier.
Jet2 told Which: 'We are continuing to operate a fully staffed call centre, and even though our teams are subject to the same difficulties and restrictions as everyone else, they are working tirelessly to proactively contact customers in departure date order to discuss their options. We believe that contacting customers in departure date order is the fairest way to deal with this, and the feedback we have received tells us this has been the right thing to do.'